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I have designed a safety system for remote controls that immediately turns off the vehicle when the operator puts down the remote control

My experience in the field of mobile robotics put me in front of different critical situations in which a correct use of a remote control device for the driving of a robot would have avoided some accidents.

Fortunately I have not lived extreme situations, but I have understood the importance of safety in the workplace.

All employees have the right to work in a safe environment, in which all health and safety risks are managed to prevent dangerous and harmful situations.

Safety of workers should be considered a priority for the employers, not only because unsafe workplaces, injuries and work-related diseases can have serious legal and financial consequences and can damage the company’s image and reputation, but also because the employers have a moral obligation towards workers: it’s a duty and moral responsibility of the company to keep employees safe and healthy in the workplace.

Of course, we are all aware that total safety does not exist “even by staying in your bed at home”, but precautions must be taken to safeguard the life of the workers and ensure a work environment as much as possible without dangers.

Employers have primary duty to ensure all health and safety requirements are met, however, all employees also play a crucial role in this: everyone is responsible for himself and others in the workplace; health and safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility.

An important factor for security is the training and preparation of operators to critical events and the correct use of protection devices, but unfortunately accidents occur, so we must always ensure that we have the highest degree of protection with respect to the context of application.

More and more vehicles (from tractors to excavators for heavy works) begin to do autonomous driving operations, and it is already possible to hypothesize realistically the automation of cranes, forklifts, etc… However, the safety legislation wants the vehicle to always be under the control of a human operator.

But obviously the operator is human!

- He could leave the remote control on a chair, on a wall, on the ground, or somewhere else, more or less unattended and even just for a moment (to go for example to the toilet or he could even take it with him to the bathroom): in this case the machinery would remain without supervision, there would be no operator who could press the emergency button in case of necessity;
- The operator could voluntarily distract himself by using social networks or even simply by answering to the phone;
- The operator could have overly high self-esteem, he may feel very confident of his abilities and for this reason he could not follow the correct method of use of the remote control;
- The operator may not feel very well: he could have a bad headache, or a sudden illness, he could faint or he could even be hit or run over by the machine itself and made helpless;
- An extreme event could shock the operator: he may not understand what to do, and instead of reacting to danger by pressing the emergency button immediately, he could go into a state of panic and lose control of the situation;
- And much more…
The importance of following safety guidelines is essential and fundamental for everyone.

When a remote operator drives a vehicle by using a remote control he must know and always keep in mind a basic rule, that is “he must never remove his hands from the remote control”, and to make sure that he follows this fundamental rule, I have thought about a system that immediately turns off the vehicle when the remote operator puts down the remote control.

Of course, for this purpose it is possible to use sensors of inclination, acceleration and gyroscopes inside the remote control, that analyze the physical quantities on all the Cartesian axes, but all these sensors have a time response and require a calibration procedure with the need to define intervention thresholds. Someone could also say: we may apply the ML and the AI to the sensors data so that the device could learn, but there will always be a situation that has never happened and that has not yet been acquired and that will not allow the security system to intervene in its only instant of utility.

Then it is necessary to simplify and make the running of these devices very banal: there is the hand/there is no hand -> on/off.

So this project is something more than just a Proof Of Concept, because it serves exactly to show the feasibility of this idea!

To create this functionality I have used the Infineon CapSense technology, which allows you to detect through plastic the presence of the hand that holds the remote control:

CAPSENSE™ is the world’s best capacitive sensing solution with industry-leading water tolerance and proximity sensing“.

Capsense technology is used to create single buttons and matrices, sliders, touchpads and proximity sensors that can detect the finger through plastic. This technology can be optimized in order to work even in the rain and/or even if the operator uses work gloves.”

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